Advancements in technology have changed the game for today’s businesses, and those who pride themselves on delivering the best product and customer service at the best possible price have minimal chances of long-term success.
“Technology really has taken the idea of product as commodity, and it just magnifies it a million-fold because it’s really, really hard — nowadays — to create a product, that the product itself is so unique and so valuable to the marketplace that there’s no other competition … Technology has made it easy for the competition to copy. If it’s easy to copy, then you’re not unique,” said Steve Miller, a self-described “marketing gunslinger” and author of the book Uncopyable: How to Create an Unfair Advantage Over Your Competition.
Drawing on his 30-plus years of experience in the corporate business world as a marketing and branding specialist, Miller is on mission to “pistol whip” companies into a new way of approaching marketing and branding. In other words, he wants you to be “uncopyable.”
What does this mean? Play up what sets your company apart. “‘Better’ is never a good competitive strategy. You have to find something that makes you uniquely and valuably different from the competition, such that it’s hard for the competition to copy what you’re doing,” the author, professional speaker, and business advisor told South Sound Business.
Think, for example, of Harley-Davidson. As Miller wrote in his book, “Harley-Davidson does not sell motorcycles. It sells fantasy and community, a branding proposition that’s uniquely Harley and difficult for other companies to copy.” Or think about Disneyland and Disney World. Another example of “uncopyable.”
“Disney’s theme parks are extremely well-designed amusement parks. There are plenty of other well-designed amusement parks around the world, but Disney doesn’t really sell amusement parks. It sells theme parks wrapped in amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experiences,” Miller wrote.
If you’re a smaller business thinking right about now that you don’t have the robust budget or marketing prowess of big-name players like Harley-Davidson or Disney to establish an “uncopyable” marketing and branding strategy, think again. It’s not about the size of your company. It’s your mindset.
In fact, since founding The Adventure LLC in 1984, Miller, who lives in Federal Way, has consulted with clients ranging from solo entrepreneurs to Fortune 100 mega-corporations like Nordstrom and Starbucks. He said he often prefers working with smaller companies because he can really move the dial and “make a huge difference” in people’s lives.
He acknowledges in his book that it isn’t always easy for companies to think up their unique branding proposition. If that’s the case, perhaps the company founder has a truly unique personality or there’s something special about your office culture?
Dare to go big with your business’ personality — it could pay off.
Being “uncopyable” is not just about thinking outside of the box, said Miller. It’s building your own box.
Miller also encourages businesses to step outside of their universe and “steal genius.” This means don’t rely on internal benchmarking for ideas but rather study people and industry cultures that are foreign to you. Try to identify something that’s common in their industry but not yours. Then steal it.
“You have to take that common thing and bring it back into your industry, where it’s brand-new. And if you do it right, it’s hard to copy,” Miller wrote.
One example of this concept, which Miller outlined in his book, is the McDonald’s drive-thru. The first fast-food, drive-thru window was created in 1975, when a McDonald’s manager came up with the idea while sitting at a bank’s drive-thru window. That’s “stealing genius.”
But no matter how innovative your strategies or exceptionally clever your ideas, it is critical to always be looking for new ways to be uncopyable.
“What is uncopyable today is not going to be uncopyable in two or three years, so you have to always be looking to push the envelope,” Miller wrote. “Nothing, no matter how up-to-the-minute or brilliant it is, is going to stay uncopyable forever.”
Miller’s Top 7 Rules to Becoming ‘Uncopyable’
Look at what everybody else is doing, and don’t do it. True, there are some things you must do in order to maintain a level of competitiveness, but if you always follow the follower, you’ll have a hard time becoming uncopyable.
There will always be a next step. Always look ahead, and proactively encourage your marketplace to move to the next step. For instance, if you do direct mail, you need prospects to actually open the mailing.
Be a big fish in a small-but-rich pond. “Clearly, this is not rocket science, but the idea is if you can be uncopyable in a small-but-rich pond, it’s much easier for you to protect that territory. And it’s much easier to get your customers or prospects into your club,” Miller wrote.
This is not “set it and forget it.” You must always be on a quest for new ways to communicate how you are “uncopyable.”
You are a human doing business with humans. This is important to remember whether you operate in the B2B or B2C world.
Look to be controversial. “If you’re not pushing the envelope on some level, then you’re almost certainly too easy to copy,“ Miller wrote.
You’re really selling attachment. What your customers are paying for is the value of their connection with your company and the experience. The product is simply the souvenir.